Workout Warrior Jason Spriggs Has Tools to Be an NFL Franchise Left Tackle

Eric Galko@OptimumScoutingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2016

Indiana offensive lineman Jason Spriggs runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Despite being a four-year starter in the Big Ten, possessing an ideal 6'5" build and garnering second-team All-Big Ten honors his senior season, Indiana’s Jason Spriggs hadn’t been able to gain steam as a “franchise left tackle” prospect.

Even after a strong Senior Bowl, Spriggs was still in the second or even third tier of offensive tackle rankings.

But after his performance in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine, he’ll no longer be a sleeper prospect. Posting the fastest 40-yard dash among offensive linemen (4.92), the longest broad jump (9'7") and the second-fastest short-shuttle time (4.44), Spriggs displayed the unique athletic upside he possesses.

As evaluators re-watch his film from his senior season, with decision makers like coaches and general managers watching for the first time, they’ll see his athletic upside translate to the field, along with refined, albeit inconsistent, technique.

Jason Spriggs is a sleeper no more, and he’ll look to rise as high as the top half of the first round after his home run of an NFL Scouting Combine. 

How His Athleticism Translates

Jason Spriggs isn’t just a workout warrior, however. On film, his athleticism jumps out, from his lateral quickness and balance to his ability to sink and bend as an upfield run-blocker.

In fact, Spriggs is a great example for how the NFL Scouting Combine can play a role in proving on-field athleticism is quantifiable. His 40 time (coupled with a top-five 10-yard split) are indicative of his explosive upfield step and the ability to keep athletic position as he works downfield.

His broad jump exemplified his lower-body strength and recovery balance, while his short shuttle highlighted the type of lateral quickness and explosiveness that allow him to flash signs of a high-level pass blocker.

Indiana vs. Rutgers

As in the play below, Spriggs shows a strong one-two step to his reach block, and works to drive on his inside shoulder with balanced extension and lower-half force, paving the way for his edge-rushing running back to work on his inside.

Spriggs' ability to stay in athletic position and finish the block on the perimeter speaks to how he’ll be able to handle edge-rushers in the run game early in his NFL career.

But when athleticism is discussed for left tackle prospects, it’s with blindside pass protection upside in mind. And Spriggs, whose short shuttle demonstrated his lateral quickness, is one of the most impressive kick-sliding tackles in the 2016 NFL draft. In fact, he’s probably the most athletic perimeter left tackle prospect in the class after Ole Miss’s Laremy Tunsil.

Indiana vs. Ohio State

While Spriggs wasn’t perfect against Ohio State, he performed as well as any evaluators could have hoped for in the most important scouting performance of his 2015 senior season.

In the play below, notice how well Spriggs is able to mirror his assignment in space. He kick slides to his initial point and protects against the inside rush move without sacrificing his positioning to open himself up to double moves. Mirroring ability like this, and the frequency at which he’s able to maintain it, is remarkable and worthy of high praise.

Inconsistent But Refined

As a four-year starter, it’s expected that Spriggs would have much of the technical refinement that NFL teams generally covet from experienced college players. But the biggest issue keeping Spriggs from being a truly special prospect is his inconsistency in applying his skills across an entire game.

It’s clear Spriggs has a high-level understanding of body and back positioning, keeping his leverage throughout his blocks and timing his hand punches well to prevent losing balance.

It’ll be on his future offensive line coach to decrease his missteps and mental errors to push Spriggs toward the NFL’s elite blockers.

Indiana vs. Rutgers

To illustrate his battle between refinement and inconsistency, here are two plays (from different games) in which Spriggs has a similar post-snap plan: protect inside leverage and prepare for a bull-rush counter inside. In the first play below, Spriggs anticipates it well, keeps his hands tight and guides the block to the interior, giving his quarterback a clean pocket.

Indiana vs. Ohio State

However, against Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, Spriggs simply whiffed on his block thanks to poor body positioning and hand timing. Whether it was nerves as a result of going against the nation’s best edge player or a momentary lapse, it’s a mistake that can’t happen at the NFL level.

NFL offensive tackles aren’t asked to make highlight-reel plays or a handful of impact finishes a game. It's a position that dreads fluctuations in play, covets reliability and as little volatility during a game as possible. That’s where Spriggs, who has the talent to grow into one of the NFL’s best blockers, will need to take the next step from promising draft pick into reliable NFL starter.

Comparison and Potential Rise

In what appears to be a loaded offensive tackle class, Jason Spriggs is jostling with two other Big Ten left tackle prospects—Jack Conklin of Michigan State and Taylor Decker—along with Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley for the No. 2 spot behind Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil. 

But along with a similar impressive college career, longevity as a college starter and athletic upside that trumps almost all of them, Jason Springs has every reason to believe he’s worthy of the second offensive tackle spot and a top-15 draft pick.

Comparable to Lane Johnson’s rise in the 2013 NFL draft, Jason Spriggs offers similar college experience and the skill set that all NFL offensive line coaches will advocate for on draft day.

Spriggs’ NFL combine has vaulted him into the discussion for every team in Round 1 that needs offensive line help. Don’t be surprised if Spriggs works his way into top-15 discussion and quietly becomes one of the most-coveted prospects after the first few elite talents are off the board.